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The First “R”: How Children Learn Race and Racism


reviewed by Lawrence Blum — 2003

coverTitle: The First “R”: How Children Learn Race and Racism
Author(s): Debra Van Ausdale and Joe R. Feagin
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham
ISBN: 0847688623, Pages: 240, Year: 2002
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The First “R” is an extremely rich ethnographic study of children’s racial understandings and constructions of meaning, in a large racially and ethnically mixed preschool in an urban area. Van Ausdale spent a year observing the fifty-eight children in the preschool, gaining access to the children’s understandings by becoming a supportive but non-authoritative presence. The authors’ numerous vignettes reveal a world of unexpected sophistication and complexity in these three-to-five-year olds.   Van Ausdale and Feagin effectively refute three common views of children’s relationship to race—that young children are incapable of racial prejudice or the use of race to hurt or exclude other children; that young children are not sufficiently cognitively developed to grasp adult meanings of race; and that children’s understanding of race and skin color reflects a color-blind ideal in which race is overlooked as a superficial characteristic. The authors’ argument on the latter two points is set within a discussion of the role of race in the broader American society. They are surely correct to argue that race... (preview truncated at 150 words.)


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 105 Number 1, 2003, p. 43-45
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10943, Date Accessed: 12/12/2017 5:13:46 AM

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About the Author
  • Lawrence Blum
    University of Massachusetts, Boston
    E-mail Author
    LAWRENCE BLUM is Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Education, and Professor of Philosophy, at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is the author of “I’m Not a Racist, But…”: The Moral Quandary of Race (Cornell, 2002) and “Racial Integration in a Multicultural Age,” in S. Macedo and Y. Tamir (eds.) Moral and Political Education: NOMOS XLIII (NYU, 2002).
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